2013 Cup of Nations Preview: Burkina Faso

It’s convenient Burkina Faso are nicknamed ‘The Stallions’, as they are Africa's perennial dark horses.  It’s quite the enigmatic title to carry, as pundits paradoxically admit a team’s weakness, yet still expect them to do surprisingly well. But no one can be surprised by the Burkinabes any longer. Leading their line is an African legend: captain Moumouni Dagano. Supporting the gangly striker is the gifted trident of Alain Traore, Jonathan Pitroipa and Abdou Razack Traore. The Traores are in scintillating club form; both Alain and Abdou Razack have notched a goal or assist in each of their respective league games. Pitroipa himself needs no introduction. The awkward winger makes use of his accumulated Bundesliga and Ligue 1 experience to effortlessly glide past fullbacks and orchestrate scoring opportunities. Charles Kabore, who nestles into the Burkinabe midsection, is a player who excels in his national outfit. At Marseille, Kabore is a good player. Full stop. For Les Etalons, Kabore dominates. He evolves into a merciless ball-winner who, in a setting of bumpy pitches and wayward shots, plays conspicuously accurate passes. Coupling Kabore is the robust Rouamba or raw Djakaridja Kone - both valued for their work ethic and defensive contribution. With that amalgamation of power and skill, it’s no wonder Burkina Faso had been tagged the ‘dark horse’ of previous tournaments. 2010’s horrific incident in Cabinda reduced the number of teams in Group B to three. Burkina Faso’s opponents? Ghana and Cote d’Ivoire. Les Etalons encountered Les Elephants once again in 2012, but their other opponents were the seemingly beatable Sudan and Angola. The Burkinabes lost three successive matches, a feat that only Botswana and Niger could better.

Change in Administration

Proceeding their catastrophic showing, manager Paolo Duarte was sacked. The Burkinabe FA perused the market for a defensive specialist. In West Africa they found Belgian enforcer Paul Put. Put had a stellar record with the Scorpions of Gambia, profiting from their youth development to assemble a sharp squad who tested the best Africa had to offer.

Hitherto, it’s proven an inspired appointment. Put’s men have conceded an anemic 3 goals in his 8 matches in charge. The Belgian employs a conservative 4-3-3 which forces Kabore a little further back than he would like. The inspired form of Lyon defender Bakary Kone has been the cornerstone of their defensive renaissance. A no-nonsense approach from defense may inhibit puritan construction of attacks, but it ensures they no longer leak goals.

With a resolute defense, powerful midfield and skilled attackers, Burkina Faso will be the sensationalist’s stereotypical African side. And all the ingredients point to them fulfilling their potential this time around.

Coach: Paul Put

Can he be the coach to finally strike a right balance for Burkina Faso? It certainly seems so, but if there’s one thing this national team’s previous performances showed, it’s that you can never really know.

Dagano ready to upset

Key Player: Moumouni Dagano

Dagano is one of handful of players who will be key for Burkina Faso. We could have selected Bakary Kone in defense, Charles Kabore in midfield, or even Jonathan Pitroipa on the flanks. The truth is that Paul Put will all of his players firing on all cylinders if they’re to trounce defending champions Zambia, or youthful Nigeria.

One to watch: Alain Traore

What makes Traore an appealing choice is that he’s capable of the absolutely spectacular. Strikes like this from different timezones have a habit of going in for the Lorient man. If he finds form, he has the potential to be one of the players of the tournament.

SFG Predicts…

Group exit.

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